• obtuse •
ahb-tyus, ahb-tus • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Rounded, blunt, not sharp. 2. Mentally dull, slow on the uptake, stupid or ignorant. 3. Unclear, difficult to comprehend, abstruse, recondite. 4. (Mathematics) In speaking of angles: more than 90° but less than 180°.
Notes: If you want to call a stupid person stupid when he or she is within hearing range, this is the word you need to use. It means "stupid", but they likely won't know it. It comes with a regular adverb, obtusely, and a regular noun, obtuseness.
In Play: Today's word is on a higher plane than stupid, so friends may use it among themselves: "Don't be so obtuse! Of course, I meant the generic you and not you personally." Things other than people may be obtuse, too: "The proposal was so obtuse, even our manager rejected it."
Word History: Obtuse comes to us via French from Latin obtusus "blunt, dull, stupid". It is the past participle of obtundere "to blunt, deafen", composed of ob- "against" + tundere "to beat" from tudes "hammer." The root of this word comes from PIE (s)tud-e- "to beat, strike, thrust", with both a Fickle N and a Fickle S. Without either, we find Sanskrit tudati "he thrusts". In Latin today's Good Word belongs to a word family with and without the N: obtundere from tudes. We find both N and S in the one Old English word, stynten "to blunt, stupefy". This word went on to become stint "to be sparing", today appearing most familiarly in unstinting(ly). Finally, German stutzen "to curtail, cut short" has the S but not the N. (Lest we be taken for obtuse, let's now thank William Hupy for suggesting yet another excellent Good Word.)
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